SEATTLE - As the weather warms up, so too does the number of stolen bikes according to police.

From the University of Washington to the streets of Seattle, officers say each year bike thefts are a growing problem.

Officers say as more people are riding bicycles, some costing hundreds even thousands of dollars, stealing bikes is turning into a lucrative business for thieves.

The University of Washington experienced a recent rash of bike thefts. In April, an average of one bike a day was stolen on campus.

Word of spikes in bike thefts isn't sitting well with the college students.

University of Washington student, Alex Kuehl says he relies solely on his bicycle to get around town.

I'm going to West Seattle for a dentist appointment. So I need my bike, Kuehl said. I can't afford to get a new bike that easily. If my bike was stolen, it would disable me.

It's such a crime of opportunity. It only takes a few seconds to commit the crime, said Commander Jerome Solomon, with the University of Washington Police Department.

Last year, 157 bikes were reported stolen on campus - the average cost per bike was $650.

You've got a substantial investment in this piece of property, said Commander Solomon.

And those investments have shown up in suspected bicycle chop shops.

In March Seattle police found several people stripping bicycles inside a Lake City area public storage unit.

I know a lot of times people are taking these parts and pawning them. I mean some of these bicycles, these road bikes are worth upwards of $5000, said Sergeant Ashley Price with Seattle Police Department Mountain Bike Patrol Unit. They (thieves) do carry tools out there - prolific bike thieves that actually cut through something as thin as this (bike cable locks).

Police officers say the challenge is catching these thieves and identifying the bike's owner.

At any given time there are about 500 unclaimed bicycles sitting in our evidence section, because they don't have proper markings we can't match the bikes up in the system, said Sgt. Price.

Police say you can protect your property. They advise using a thicker cable locks or u-locks.

Also officers advise owners record their bicycle's serial number in a safe place.

And most importantly, engrave your bike with identification markings, for example your Washington State driver's license or cell phone number -- so if it is recovered, police have a way to contact you.

Click here for bicycle safety and theft prevention tips

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